Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra took over the leadership of the Department of Justice in April 2018.
The STAR/Edd Gumban
Guevarra to panel of foreign lawyers: Back up claims with proof
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - March 19, 2019 - 4:05pm

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday slammed the international delegation of lawyers’ “sweeping statements” that killings of law practitioners are “state-sanctioned” as “preposterous.”

On Monday, a panel of international lawyers said that upon a review of data, “there are patterns suggesting a connection between the killings and the actions of the PNP [Philippine National Police] and AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines].”

The delegation, that looked into killings of 13 lawyers in the Philippines last week, also raised that public pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte against lawyers are part of the “pattern.”

READ: International panel of lawyers note 'sharp increase' in rights violations vs lawyers

But the Philippines’ Justice secretary challenged the international lawyers’ “sweeping statement” and said that they should provide proof to back up their claims.

“With all due respect, I find their conclusion that lawyers’ deaths are state-sanctioned preposterous, unless they can back it up with some credible evidence. Of all people, they as lawyers, should be the first to show proof of facts before making reckless public statements,” Guevarra told reporters.

The panel, in publicizing the findings of their review, said that there has been a “sharp increase” of “severe” rights violations against Philippine rights lawyers and legal professionals.

The panel, composed of members of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Association of Lawyers and Day of Endangered Lawyer Foundation, also urged the chief executive—known for his firebrand leadership—to “refrain from publicly attacking lawyers and instead publicly condemn all attacks against lawyers, prosecutors and judges.”

The Palace for its part distanced itself from the killings. Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement: “The administration has not attacked any lawyer in any way and/or manner.”

Guevarra: Probe into killings of lawyers ongoing

The panel also claimed that there are no “structural remedy” for victims, citing arrests and indictment of suspects in killings of the legal profession.

But Guevarra refuted this and pointed out that state prosecutors are already looking into the case of the slain Quezon City prosecutor Rogelio Velasco.

A Quezon City cop was named as one of the respondents in the murder complaint.

READ: Cop tagged in fiscal’s murder now in custody

Velasco's killing is one of the more than 30 deaths that the panel has recorded. They also said on Monday that they suspect more were killed as they recently received a report of the killing of two paralegals. 

The justice chief also argued that motives behind the killing of lawyers may vary.

“There are so many reasons why lawyers get killed—work-related, personal, business, political, etc. And pinning the blame on the government may be pushing it too far,” Guevarra said.

The justice chief also assured: “The DOJ will always do it part in protecting members of the legal profession, who comprise the very heart and soul of our department."

RELATED: 'Stop publicizing drug lists,' international lawyers' groups urge government

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE DRUG WAR MENARDO GUEVARRA
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